Local government and planning

One in five warehouses in England and Wales, approximately 621 premises, will have a fire requiring attendance of fire fighters over the course of its lifetime.  Each of these fires creates economic, social and environmental costs and impacts – many of which are borne at the local level as fires cause temporary and permanent job losses, damage local economies and cause air and water pollution.

Sprinkler systems ensure the most effective fire protection for British property and businesses.  They provide automatic detection, alarm and fire fighting capability at all hours of the day and night, 365 days of the year.

A 2013 Cebr[1] study looked at the financial and economic impacts of fires in warehouses without sprinkler systems in England and Wales and found that these fires:

  • Cause knock-on effects with an average of 21 local businesses impacted by road closures and air pollution and water contamination; they also often cause residential and school evacuations
  • Cause approximately 1,000 direct and indirect jobs losses annually through disruption and business failure
  • Cause a direct financial loss to business of £230m per year, causing a loss of £190m per year in productivity and impacts to the supply chain
  • Cause the Treasury to lose £32 in tax receipts per year – equivalent to the wage cost of 1,320 nurses
  • Cause 135,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere annually – equivalent to the emissions resulting from the annual domestic electricity consumption by a city the size of Portsmouth; and found that the cost of these emissions and of the water used in fire-fighting is £11 million per year

These costs and impacts are all avoidable because sprinklers control or extinguish fires before the Fire Service arrives. They therefore ensure a wide range of benefits at the local level: they reduce risks to firefighters and benefit fire services; they protect local businesses and jobs; they protect against local environmental damage; they protect against the costs and inconveniences of the transport disruptions, and of evacuations of businesses, residences and schools caused by large businesses fires; and they protect local heritage and also allow  design freedoms which can encourage innovative, inclusive and sustainable architecture.

It is therefore in Councillors’ interest to take action to help ensure that there are fewer large industrial fires in their constituency.

County and District Councillors can help by:

  • Promoting the business benefits of installing sprinklers to the local business communities.
  • Adopting policies for Development Plans/Design Guides/Local Plans and for the planning process which explicitly promote and encourage the installation of sprinklers in industrial and commercial buildings.

[1] The Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr) is an independent research and analysis centre